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Nigerians don’t appreciate art – David Asuwafoh

David Asuwafoh is a 29-year-old man from Edo State. He is an artist who specializes in abstract paintings, using the visual concepts of shape, colour…

David Asuwafoh is a 29-year-old man from Edo State. He is an artist who specializes in abstract paintings, using the visual concepts of shape, colour and size. He is into sketching too. In this interview with Art & Ideas, he speaks about his struggles and how he overcame them. 


What led you to painting?

When I was little boy, I loved to paint. I used to dream of becoming an artist back then. So when I came to Abuja, I began learning how to paint and sketch at Arts and Crafts. I was there for a period of two months. From there I went back home to Warri where I grew up to continue with my painting and sketching, but I mostly do abstract. I met a woman on Instagram, who inspired me. Unfortunately, I can’t recall her name. Apart from her, there are many others on social media that influenced me to become a full time artist. There is also a close friend of mine who paints but has moved to Brazil now. We painted together and I learnt a lot from him too.


How would you describe your art?

I would say my kind of art is different, unique and passionate. I paint what comes to my mind on the canvas.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

An engineer; mechanical engineer. I would really love to be one, so my intention is to go back to school and get the qualifications in that so that I can be doing two things that I love. 


In what ways do you think art can be appreciated in Nigeria?

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t appreciate art in Nigeria. It is now that some people are coming to fully know the value or art and the depth to it. Those that are able to travel out and see how valuable art is to people elsewhere, when they come back they see our work and fully appreciate  the effort and passion put into it. Most of the people that buy my art aren’t even Nigerians. Foreigners buy and take them back to their countries to showcase in galleries. When Nigerians see my paintings and talk about how nice they think it is, as soon as I tell them the price they are outraged. This is because they don’t understand the creativity, the work and the effort that went into producing that piece of art on the canvas. I think the only way that we can make Nigerians to appreciate art is to either make the painting cheap which makes our work undervalued or make paintings accessible everywhere; not only in galleries but in other buildings too. But the average Nigerian doesn’t like art. I sell my painting at a relatively cheap rate just so people can buy. 


What are the challenges you encounter as a painter in Nigeria?

If you’re an artist here in Nigeria, the main challenge is that Nigerians don’t value art. The only thing you can do is to continue because of how much you love doing what you do and in the hope that someone will come across your work and love it. As time goes on, I think Nigerians will become more exposed where it comes to art. If you’re painting for the money, then obviously you will not feel fulfilled at all so don’t do anything if you don’t truly love and believe in it. The way Nigerians price art is highly discouraging to anyone who values what they have done but the best is to continue in what you believe in with a strong will. I started painting in 2002 and the improvement since then has been very minimal.


How would you describe creativity in your words?

Being imaginative and being able to draw inspiration from wherever you are; that’s creativity. Being able to draw images in your mind and putting them on a canvas is creativity. Even an object can be a means of inspiration for creativity.


What does it take to be a successful artist?

When I started painting, I only had five paintings.  A month went by and nobody bought any, two months, nothing, and then the third month came and someone bought my painting. But now people come and buy my paintings for triple the price that I began with which means they are beginning to see the artistic value of my paintings. 


What advice would you give upcoming artists?

I would tell them to be patient, determined and not lose hope. You have to start from somewhere. Make a name for yourself and don’t do it for the money. Do it because you’re passionate and appreciate painting. Once you begin to do something for yourself, then there is nothing that can deter you. Art is from the heart and soul, not a means to make money.

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